The Jean Mercier Case: defending a cause shouldn’t hide the true facts

The criminal appeal process for Jean Mercier started in Lyon on Thursday September 8. A penalty of one year suspended sentence was requested for “punishment as a matter of principle” for this 88-year-old man, who helped his wife put an end to her life in 2011.

On October 27, 2015, this octogenarian was convicted of failure to assist a person in danger to a one year suspended sentence. In spite of receiving a lesser sentence than the 3-year suspended sentence received in the first instance, he filed an appeal for his conviction, and so did the prosecutor, and his case was retried in Lyon.

The General Counsel, Fabienne Goget, noted that Josanne Mercier was not at the end of life, that she did not have an incurable disease, but suffered from osteoarthritis and anxiety and that death was not the only solution for this 83-year-old woman. The Magistrate emphasized that “Jean Mercier acted according to philosophical convictions and that he assumes the responsibility of his action», citing” the couple’s membership in the Association for the Right to Die in Dignity” (ADMD) which is permanently present in this case. The association’s supporters, including their president, Jean-Luc Romero, were present to show their support for the defendant.

The General Counsel specified however that “this case should not be manipulated to defend a cause, and hide the true facts”. And that what should count there « is the principle of a symbolic minimum sentence under which we should not go”. She concluded by requesting for the Court to confirm the Criminal Court’s ruling in Saint Etienne.

Jean Mercier recalled the facts of the morning of November 10, 2011, when his wife, having broken her wrist, woke up complaining. She asked him to “bring her medicine” and some morphine, and to help her take off the capsules. According to Jean Mercier, “it was the first time she was imploring me, and as we had promised (to help each other die)”, continued the octogenarian,” I had no other choice to do otherwise”.  

Evoking the « dominant-dominated » relationship in this couple married for 55 years, his lawyer Mickaël Boulay asserted that he had “kept his word to his spouse” and pleaded for his acquittal.

Outside the courtroom, Jean Mercier declared: « I don’t care about the sentence, I prefer to be acquitted but what counts, is the struggle that I’m waging to move things forward. »

According to Tugdual Derville, Alliance VITA’s General Delegate:

« One thing is to try to understand this woman’s suffering, in a position of dependence and distress, without adding to her husband’s suffering, who since this tragedy has been confined in his self-justification. Another thing is to point out how this “assisted suicide” tragedy is purposely being exploited in order to advocate euthanasia. Mr. Mercier has come out from hiding. As for the other cases that we have analyzed (The Euthanasia Battle, an investigation of 7 upsetting French cases*) euthanasia promoters focus on victimization, thereby camouflaging any alternative to suicide or euthanasia.  

On the one hand we are tempted to keep silent in front of such private situations, but on the other hand, in this particular case as well as in others, we have to say that suicide is never the right solution. The humane solution to suffering is rather to offer an adequate assistance to vulnerable individuals. »